It is one thing to have that feeling of a dry, parched mouth during vigorous exercise. This is usually an indication that some water is in order and that will frequently improve the situation.

However, some people suffer from dry mouth on a more regular basis. The truth is that many people may suffer from dry mouth without fully realizing their condition.

So what exactly is dry mouth?

As the name would suggest, dry mouth occurs when there is a reduction in the level of saliva produced by our salivary glands. This might not seem like a serious condition at first glance. But saliva performs an important function in our bodies.

It coats the inside of the mouth and teeth and protects them from various bacteria, chemicals and even food or drink that is too hot or cold. Without saliva, the risk of developing oral infections is quite a bit higher. This can result in damage to the tissue in the mouth and to dental decay.

People with mild cases of dry mouth may not even consider that they have a problem. They may experience periodic difficulty with swallowing food, but will simply drink more water to help in the process. Most people do not start to realize there may be an issue until their flow of saliva is reduced by 50%.

Moderate sufferers will experience a more consistent, dry sticky feeling in their mouths. To combat this, they will usually drink more liquids. They may also suck on more candy, hardly something most dentists would recommend!

In severe cases, we will often notice that our patients have high levels of plaque, tartar and decay. They may also have ulcers in the mouth, blisters, cracked lips and sores on the tongue. Fungal infections are also quite common. As you can imagine, these are quite serious conditions.

Dry mouth can be caused by certain types of medication, for instance, anti-depressants, beta-blockers and diuretics. At Rideau Dental Centre, we always ask that you update us on any medications you may be taking because this can help us understand why we may observe certain conditions.

Unfortunately, the simple process of aging can result in reduced flow of saliva. Given that more and more of us are that much closer to those “golden years”, this might be something to monitor as time goes on! Of course, we would be happy to help keep track of this with you!

One of the symptoms of diabetes is a dry mouth. If you have not been diagnosed with diabetes but are experiencing dry mouth, you may want to talk to your doctor about getting tested.

People with cancer also report experiencing dry mouth. It can either be the cancer itself or the treatment that is the cause. If you have been diagnosed, it is important to have this issue addressed as you do not want to risk any sort of infection while your immune system is already compromised!

So if you think you might be experiencing a reduction in the flow of saliva in your mouth, come in and talk to us about it! At the very least, we will want to monitor the situation to protect your oral health. We may also be able to talk to you about some potential solutions that could improve the situation. For instance, you may need to come into the office for more frequent cleanings to prevent plaque from building up! Because protecting yourself from dry mouth is a healthy habit…and healthier habits lead to healthier lives.

Dr. David Lui

Dental Surgeon